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Somerset leader backs MPs’ call for better council funding

THE leader of struggling Somerset Council has welcomed a letter from more than 40 MPs calling for an improved financial settlements for local authorities.

Bill Revans, leader of Somerset Council, has welcomed the intervention from MPs, who called for an urgent rethink of funding plans.

From the County Councils Network (CCN) and the County All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), the letter was signed by 46 MPs of different political parties, including two from Somerset – Sarah Dyke (Lib Dem, Somerton & Frome) and Ian Liddell-Grainger (Con, Bridgwater & West Somerset) – along with seven former cabinet members. Dorset MP Chris Loder (Con, West Dorset) also signed the letter.

It came after November’s Autumn Statement, which provided no new funding for councils, despite concerns raised nationally.

The 46 MPs say they are “exceptionally concerned” residents will be faced with reductions in services and higher council tax rates in order for councils to balance the books.

Somerset Council recently declared a “financial emergency”, and has vaunted potential 10% increases in council tax, as well as the closure of some recycling sites and cutting of services as it battles to balance the books.

Cllr Revans said: “We’ve said the model for funding local government is broken. We’re not alone in making this claim.

“Here we have support from more than 40 MPs nationally, including two Somerset MPs of different political parties.

“The scenario they describe is exactly what is happening in Somerset, where due to soaring costs in social care we have no choice but to consider taking heart-breaking and unprecedented decisions to increase council tax while also reducing non-statutory services.

“I strongly support this letter and hope it leads to a meaningful conversation at a national level about funding for local councils.”

READ MORE: Somerset and Dorset MPs unite in call for better council funding
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READ MORE: Somerset Council could declare bankruptcy – and signals ‘financial emergency’

The group of MPs includes former Local Government Secretary of States Robert Jenrick and Greg Clark, as well as prominent former cabinet members Priti Patel, Therese Coffey, Damien Green and Brandon Lewis.

Former local government ministers Neil O’Brien, Heather Wheeler, Kit Malthouse, and Jake Berry have also signed.

They have called for the government to provide emergency funding for councils to prevent substantial cuts to local services, or worse, some authorities being unable to deliver a balanced budget in 2024/25.

The letter said: “There is still an opportunity to rectify the situation and ensure MPs are able to support the vote on the Local Government Settlement within the House of Commons in early February.

“We would therefore urge you to do all you can to use the Final Local Government Finance Settlement to provide additional funding for local government to ensure that the councils in our areas can continue to provide the services that our residents depend upon on a regular basis.”

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